Tuesday 14 May 2013

SPaG test - how NOT to improve grammar and literacy

Today Gove is inflicting another damaging 'reform' on our children and on our schools.

The Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar test is allegedly being introduced to improve the teaching of English. In reality, it will stultify and set back learning and literacy.

Why? Well, I'm no language expert but here are a few points from David Crystal, Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, who most certainly is:

" A correspondent (well, several actually) writes to ask what I think about the proposed test for 'English grammar, punctuation and spelling' (KS2, levels 3-5 materials). It would take more than a blog post to answer this question. My basic view is that it, and the view of language lying behind it, turns the clock back half a century ...

Several questions are of the type 'circle all the X in the sentence below'. Q16 Circle all the adverbs... Q23 Circle the connectives... Q42 Circle the preposition... Q44 Circle the article... This is how grammar was taught before the 1960s. The approach used to be called (after the Henry Reed poem) 'naming of parts'. I spent hundreds of hours in the 1980s and 90s, along with examiners such as George Keith and John Shuttleworth, running in-service courses where the aim was to move away from that kind of thing, and I really thought we were getting somewhere. The right question, in their (and my) view was not: 'Circle all the passives in the paragraph' - end of story - but 'Identify the passives and say why they are there' - beginning of story.

... There's nothing wrong with being able to identify adverbs as long as this is not thought to be the end of the story. It would be like giving people a driving test where all they had to do was name the parts of the car. With a linguistically informed approach, one can do this, yes, but then go on to drive the language, as it were, and take it to all kinds of exciting places.

For David's full article, see his blog on http://david-crystal.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/on-testing-time.html

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